Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

Board of Directors

ACPET is owned and governed by its members. It is an incorporated, not-for-profit company administered by a Board.  The ACPET Board comprises eight positions elected by the membership. The ACPET Board elects a Chair and the Deputy Chair annually.

Alexis Watt

National Chair

Director representing South Australia (since 2016)

Alexis is the CEO of Open Colleges School of Health, an independent RTO in the Open Colleges group specialising in the nursing, health, aged care and community services sectors. Focused on delivering the best quality nursing graduates to Australia’s health industry, the RTO operates campuses in SA and WA along with a strong online presence. With nearly 20 years’ experience in VET, including leadership of a dual-sector HEP and CRICOS provider, Alexis holds positions on various Boards, Committees and Councils at state and national levels.



Andrew Shea

Director representing Victoria (since 2017)

Andrew is the Chief Executive Officer of House of Learning Pty. Ltd. t/a Builders Academy Australia which delivers qualifications in Building and Construction and related industries across 4 Australian States. Builders Academy Australia is part of the Simonds Group with includes Simonds Homes, Australia's 4th largest builder of detached housing.

Through Andrew’s role as part of the executive team of the Simonds Group he has gained a deep understanding of current and future workforce learning and development requirements within a large National employer.

Over the past 12 years Andrew has held Senior Management and Executive level positions across a range of training providers delivering across diverse cohorts including to domestic students, onshore to international students and offshore to international students.


Wilhelm Harnisch

Deputy Chair

Board Appointed Director (since 2017)

Wilhelm Harnisch is Managing Director of Zennex Pty Ltd group of companies.  Wilhelm has a long and deep understanding of Australia’s VET and higher education systems.  He also has a deep understanding of government public policy. He was the former National CEO of Master Builders Australia, a position he held for 15 years.  He holds and has held numerous senior directorships including Chair of Focus ACT Ltd, Government’s National Disability and Carers Advisory Council and Employment Reform Working Group, Cbus Industry Superannuation Fund, Cbus Property Pty Ltd. He was deputy chair of Livable Housing Limited and Australian Construction Industry Forum Limited.  He was voted AIST 2012 Superannuation Trustee of the Year and received the Federal Safety Commissioner Medal in 2017.  He is a Fellow of AICD, Fellow of AIML and a Senior Associate of FINSIA. Wilhelm’s qualifications include a BA from the University of Canberra.

Trish Ridley
Director representing Western Australia (since 2018)

Trish Ridley has been a senior Human Resources management professional with over 18 years' experience across the Western Australian disability sector. With a focus on supporting board and executive business strategy, particular areas of expertise lie in training and development, particularly in the registered training environment, change management/business restructuring, occupational safety and health, injury and project management.  Trish established Activ Pathways in 2009 and continues to lead this RTO creating learning opportunities for people with a disability and those associated within the disability sector.  Trish is a current Director and committee member of ACPET and holds a Bachelor of Education with an Associate Degree in Training and Assessment.

Nicholas Marks

Director representing Australian Capital Territory (since 2018)

Nicholas is the CEO of the Australian Institute of Family Counselling, a specialised national RTO in the tertiary education sector.

Having previously worked in various consulting, operational and general management roles in health, federal government, insurance and risk management.

Nicholas is a graduate of the AICD and serves as a
current Director and Committee member for ACPET.

Nicholas holds undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications in health,
business management and risk management and is currently
studying a Masters in leadership.


Kathleen Newcombe
Director representing Queensland (since 2017)

Kathleen has over thirty years of experience in the Higher Education, Vocational Training and Recruitment sectors both in Australia and the USA. Kathleen also spent three years in leadership roles in the Insurance industry where she successfully managed a Health Insurance business catering to the International Education sector.

Kathleen Newcombe has been the CEO of the Sarina Russo Group of Companies for over 6 years,
The scope of Kathleen’s role includes leadership of:

  • the largest privately operated supplier of jobactive ,Australian Apprenticeship Services Network and Disability Employment Services to the Australian Government
  • higher education programs (delivered under a management agreement between James Cook University and Russo Higher Education) for domestic and International students through James Cook University Brisbane.
  • higher education Degree courses in Entrepreneurship and International Banking and Finance delivered by Russo Business School, a TEQSA approved Provider
  • vocational and English Language courses delivered by Sarina Russo Institute, nationally accredited to deliver to domestic and International students.




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